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China reported eight new human cases of H7N9 bird flu on Tuesday, all of them in critical condition, bringing the total number across the country to 71, state media said.
The new cases occurred in eastern China, the focal point for the outbreak which has claimed 14 lives in the two weeks since Chinese authorities said they found the strain in humans for the first time.
Three of the new infections are in Jiangsu, according to state news agency Xinhua which cited the province's health department. They are a 21-year-old woman, and two men aged 56 and 72.
The other five were in Zhejiang, where three men and two women aged between 56 and 72 tested positive for the virus.
As of Tuesday, Zhejiang has confirmed 21 H7N9 cases, including two that have ended in death.
A seven-year-old girl in Beijing who tested positive for H7N9 in the capital's only reported case so far will be discharged from hospital on Wednesday, Xinhua said.
She has been treated for the past six days and is now testing negative for the virus.
A four-year-old boy who had tested positive was discharged from a Shanghai hospital on Wednesday, said Xinhua citing local health authorities.
He has been the only confirmed case to make a full recovery.
Health authorities in China say they do not know exactly how the virus is spreading, but it is believed to be crossing from birds to humans, prompting mass culls in several cities.
Experts fear the prospect of the virus mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, which would have the potential to trigger a pandemic -- but the WHO has said there is no evidence yet of such a development.
International experts are preparing to head to China to probe the outbreak, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.
The mission, including four international flu specialists, is due to arrive in the coming days for a week-long investigation.
Taiwan announced on Tuesday that it is planning a permanent ban on the killing of live poultry in traditional markets amid concerns over the spread of the H7N9 avian flu virus in China.
Chinese state media Monday urged people to keep eating chicken and help revive the poultry industry, which lost 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in the week after the virus began infecting humans.